Rangers Captain Chris Drury returned tonight, and found a team much different than the one he left behind in October. A resilient, hard-working bunch that keeps finding ways to keep themselves in games that aren't going well, and one that keeps staring down the face of adversity.
The Rangers offense took a fifty minute long winters nap, but when they woke up, they blitzed the Penguins, and for the second time in four days stuck it to a Stanley Cup contender with a 4-1 victory tonight at the CONSOL center in Pittsburgh.
First period was pretty even until the last three minutes, when the Penguins turned on the jets, and kept the puck in the Rangers zone for close to two minutes, picking up seven shots, and getting a goal from Malkin to take a 1-0 late in the first period. Cindy got the assist, extending his point scoring streak to twenty games.
Not much to report on in the second period, Rangers only mustered six shots on goal, after getting just six in the first period as well. Versus said it was the lowest Rangers shot total against Pittsburgh after two periods in four years. I only mention this because it may truly be the most worthless stat I've ever heard.
Early in the third period, Sean Avery took on Arron Asham, and although the tussle was nothing special, it definitely seemed to put the bounce back in the Rangers step.
At the halfway point in the third period, the Rangers unleashed hell. They had started getting the better of the scoring chances just a few minutes prior, and finally broke through just past the ten minute mark when Erik Christensen got the Rangers going with his sixth goal of the year.
Fifteen seconds later, the Rangers once again showed their propensity for scoring in bunches when Alexander Frolov finally broke his long scoring drought, picking up his sixth of the season, and putting the Rangers ahead for good.
With the home crowd in stunned silence, it was easy to hear the "WHOOSH" of the next two goals by Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle as they flew by goaltender Brent Johnson, which sent the Pens faithful packing, and sent our open game thread into a frenzy.
The big win in Crosby's crib helped soften the blow of the loss of a key cog in the Ranger machine, as Ryan Callahan will be lost for an undetermined amount of time after breaking his hand while blocking a shot. This team has so far been able to withstand every challenge the hockey gods have thrown at them, and right now it would be tough to bet against them surviving the loss of Callahan as well.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves tonight. None of them from the stick of Sydney Crosby. None. Zero. Zilch. Nil. Nada. Wherever you are reading this, give the Ranger defense a little applause. They weren't perfect tonight, but they were about as close as they could get against this team.
Rangers return to action against the Coyotes tomorrow night at the Garden. The newly financially-stable Coyotes were shutout by the Devils 3-0 tonight. Rangers will need to keep focused and take care of business against Phoenix, with the Philadelphia Flyers looming for a Saturday matinee.